In December 2018, the council’s Housing Standards team responded to a tenant who was complaining about the living conditions at their multiple occupation (HMO) student house at Pedder Street in Ashton, Preston.Advertisement
As a result of the inspection, the owner and landlord of the property, Mr Michael Gibbons, who was trading as ‘Student Accommodation Preston’ was served an Improvement Notice requiring repairs to be completed by no later than 17 February 2019.
The officers’ intervention also revealed that Mr Gibbons was operating this property without holding the necessary HMO licence.
Since October 2018 most HMOs that contain five or more occupiers must hold a licence issued by the council. The licence process ensures that HMO properties are safe to live in, and that the person running the property is a fit and proper person.
Read more: We’re looking for someone to light up Preston
Despite the team’s attempts to work with Mr Gibbons in order to bring about improvements at the Pedder Street address, and a number of other student houses within Preston, unfortunately he did not engage with the team, and in June 2019 a decision was made to refuse Mr Gibbons’ belated HMO licence applications for the properties as he was not deemed to be a fit and proper person.
In September 2019, Mr Gibbons was fined for failing to carry out improvements at the Pedder Street property and for failing to apply for an HMO Licence, each matter being a criminal offence under the 2004 Housing Act. The fine for each offence was £12,375.
Mr Gibbons appealed these actions at the First Tier Tribunal. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the hearing of the appeals was delayed until October 2020 when the Tribunal confirmed the fines.
As these fines remain unpaid, the council is now in the process of enforcing them through the courts.
At a further appeal by Mr Gibbons on the decision of the council that he was not a fit and proper person to run licensed HMOs, in April 2021 the First Tier Tribunal dismissed his appeal, preventing him from operating any licensed HMO properties in Preston.
The conduct of Mr Gibbons was such that in November 2020 he was warned that his name and details would be added to the nationwide database of rogue landlords.
He again appealed the council’s decision, leading to a protracted delay, however, in September 2021 the appeal was abandoned and as a result the council has completed its intentions of adding his name to the rogue landlord list, allowing all local authorities in England to become aware of his past conduct.
Read more: Preston Here for Humanity to host reverse advent calendar for those in need
During this investigation, a total of 13 former tenants have brought rent repayment applications before the First Tier Tribunal in respect of Mr Gibbons’ failings.
Those claims resulted in an order to pay back rent to those tenants, an amount totalling £46,908.
Councillor Jennifer Mein, Cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “Whilst most landlords are responsible and provide good accommodation, our dedicated and conscientious team of officers in Housing Standards work hard to ensure the residents of Preston are protected from poor landlords such as Mr Gibbons, and that justice is served.
“Despite a long delay due to the Covid pandemic, the team have achieved everything they set out to. Thanks to their intervention and dedication, local authorities across the country will now be aware of Mr Gibbons’ record in Preston and it is likely this will severely limit his ability to operate any other HMOs. He has finally been held to account for his behaviour.
“Although it is disappointing to find that some landlords act in this way, the residents of Preston can feel safe knowing that there are procedures in place to combat this and that Preston City Council take all tenant complaints seriously and investigate them thoroughly.”
Read more: See the latest Preston news and headlines